• Linea nigra

    Nikky Finney

    Winter 2021

    On the occasion of the death of my father, December 3, 2017, and the death of a Black girl living near you

    It was 79 degrees when I was born,
    sunny, there was wind, monarch
    butterflies frantically migrated the
    five thousand miles from Canada
    to Mexico, I loved being a Black girl,

    back then, at the beginning, Daddy
    lifted me up after school, his baby-
    blue Electra 225 pointing to our place,
    lost land of black swans with wide
    Negro red lips, balding cypress

    tupelo gums in drag, pushing
    showy out of shiny black water,
    before the coming of shapely legs
    and bright-eyed breasts, before
    knowing I was hunted, he would

    open the back door of the Buick,
    Climb in, I would lie back, all the
    way flat, position Y, just beneath
    the long back window curling in,
    cupola and nib, new hips secure,

    thin black line of my long Black
    girl body poured into a warm
    crystal pan, in place, my arms
    ready at my side, my longest toes
    reach-tipping into the overhead,

    spread Black girl eagle in the long
    back capsule of the super silver
    Deuce and a Quarter, with fender
    skirts, he would shift it down,
    a slow creep, a whitewall skulk,

    through the former land of ivory-
    billed woodpeckers, as close to
    the shiny black swamp as we could
    crawl, our one-car parade snail-
    inching, the red ticking mud alive,

    my eyes fashioned into jeweled
    periscopes, floating high above
    lilac Japanese irises, towering
    canopies of biscuit magnolia,
    silently watching for the arrival,

    the most golden mortise of after
    afternoon sunlight,

    Nikky Finney was born by the sea in South Carolina and raised during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. She is the author of On Wings Made of Gauze, Rice, The World is Round, and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. Her new collection of poems, Love Child's Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, is available from TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press.

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